Richard White is founder and CEO of UserVoice, the complete software solution for understanding users and keeping them happy with great support.
Anyone in gaming knows that the biggest shift over the past couple years has been the shift from paid to free-to play-games - accounting for 79 percent (in the EU) and 90 percent (in the US) of mobile game spending.
What you may not have known is there's been an equally big shift to providing in-app customer support in these free apps.
Our analysis of the top 1,000 iOS and Android apps shows that while only 0.4 percent of paid apps have some form of in-app support, 39.5 percent of free apps do.
When we look at just gaming apps that latter numbers drops to 22.7 percent, not quite as large but still significant.
Support as a service
Though it at first seems counter-intuitive, the logic is pretty simple: once someone has purchased your app there's little way to make more money from them and so you have very little incentive to provide excellent, or really any, in-app support.
If they really need help, they'll find a way to reach you (because they're already 'invested' in making your app work), mostly through the contact info you put on your app store page.
At least, hopefully they do that instead of just giving you a bad rating.
This reactive (or reclusive) approach to customer support doesn't work for free apps where users don't convert until they've had multiple game sessions (almost half don't convert until after the tenth session).
If a problem happens before that point and you don't make it painless (and obvious) for them to get help they'll simply delete your app. Research shows that 52 percent of people delete an app when it crashes.
Beyond customer acquisition there is data to imply that this also impacts app store ratings: the free apps with in-app support had an average rating of 4.15 versus 4.00 for those that did not.
If you narrow the selection down to just games, it's 4.40 versus 4.27.
More than a mail link
This transition is ongoing as mobile games still trail web-based games by a significant margin when it comes to both availability and the sophistication of customer support:
- 72 percent of the top gaming websites (as ranked by Alexa) have some form of in-app help.
- 32 percent of in-app support is simply a email link (compared to 3 percent for web sites).
This second point requires a little unpacking. MAILTO type email links (such as mailto:email@example.com) do work much better on mobile devices than they do on the web.
However they lack the scalability you find in modern web-based customer service tools: debugging metadata, customizable questions (for efficient issue routing), and most importantly the ability to provide inline auto-suggested self-help solutions.
This sort of efficiency and scalability is necessary when you consider that this new wave of freemium apps has, on average, a user base that's 10-times the size of traditional paid apps.
The problem in the past hasn't been that app developers prefer MAILTO components but rather that restrictive app store policies around thirdparty data and a limited market meant customer support vendors hadn't stepped up to provide a easy-to-install native replacement for the venerable MAILTO.
Making the switch
Thankfully vendors, such as UserVoice, are popping up to provide such alternatives.
For example, PicCollage, a top 100 app and UserVoice customer, recently replaced the email links in both their Android and iOS apps with the UserVoice Mobile SDK. You can find out more details about the SDK here.
It took their developers under an hour to make the switch and overnight it cut their support load by 87 percent by reducing junk messages and driving users to self-service.
You can read more about the process here.
Hold out a hand
So what does all this mean for you? It means you can't afford to ignore mobile customer service.
In this always-on world of highly opinionated, increasingly mobile customers who have more choice and voice than ever, customer service (and customer insight) should be baked into your user experience.
Vendors are coming onto the scene with libraries (often free) which you can easily drop in to make the process pretty painless, but you still have to make sure those components are easily discoverable by users.
Putting a 'Get help' link in your navigation is great. Adding it to your splash screen and to any error pages is even better. Good luck!
Prior to founding UserVoice, Richard served as the lead designer on Kiko.com, a Y-Combinator-funded calendaring product that drew praise for its clean design. Passionate about building simple productivity tools that delight users, Richard's expertise lies in UI design and UX.